By by Tina RayFebruary 6, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - When the Army Family Covenant was adopted in 2007, it was an initiative to put Families first. The Iron Mike Award ceremony at the Officers' Club Jan. 26 recognized people who honored that initiative through volunteering with the Army Community Service. In the packed Hodge Room, 21 volunteers received awards ranging from a lapel pin, to a Bronze or Silver Star, with each award given based on registered and documented hours of service: 300 minimum hours are required to receive a pin; 500 for a Bronze Star and 750 for a Silver Star. One thousand hours are required for a Gold Star, but according to Cathy Mansfield, coordinator for ACS, only two have been issued since the Iron Mike awards program's inception in 2001. The Iron Mike award is designed to "recognize those sort of cream-of-the-crop volunteers, those who go above and beyond," said Mansfield. Maj. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, gave opening remarks and presented each recipient with an award. When Carolyn Bohnert's husband, Sgt. Paul Bohnert, of the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Aviation Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, was deployed to Afghanistan, she sent care packages to the unit. For her service, she received an Iron Mike pin. "It's very rewarding for me. It's nice to be appreciated for what I do even though I do it without reward," Bohnert said. "My main goal is to help the Families and Soldiers. It's almost like it's a piece of my husband. I do it for him." Shelle Altieri has been married to Lt. Col. Jayson Altieri, commander of the 2nd Bn., 82nd Avn. Regt., 82nd CAB, for 13 years. As a battalion commander's wife, she knows how important it is to provide support for Families. She serves as an advisor for the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Avn. Regt., 82nd CAB. Altieri spearheaded the development of the commander's family readiness group, or FRG philosophy and standard procedures for its informal funds, operations, budgeting, virtual FRG and newsletter. "Virtual FRG is a Department of the Army-wide program that has been developed to provide a secure Internet environment for Families to get information about their soldier's unit," said Altieri, who received a Bronze Star at the Iron Mike ceremonies. "I like seeing that one spouse who has never been contacted or has just not known what FRG is, and they come up excited that they now have access to the unit in a different way than just through their Soldier," she said. The effort does not go unnoticed. Katie Bricker has appreciated the support ACS volunteers have provided while she and her husband, Col. Paul Bricker, commander of 82nd CAB have been at Fort Bragg. "They provide a Family network when you are not actually living close to your blood relatives," Bricker said. Volunteers mentor and teach new wives how to maneuver around town and they prepare meals for Families after newborns arrive, said Bricker. "We depend so much on volunteers on this installation to do all that we do," Scaparrotti said. "To stop the train quarterly and recognize those who are doing so much is the least we can do and it's an honor for me to be a part of that." The Iron Mike Awards given Jan. 26 were for services rendered October to December, Mansfield said. Recipients are nominated by others in their unit or by other organizations. Department of Defense civilians, active duty military and contract employees are not eligible for the award unless their volunteer service is not related to paid duties.